MorphoSys beefs up antibody research biz

By Emilie Reymond

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Immune system

MorphoSys has just opened new UK headquarters for its
antibody-focused business unit, giving the company expanded
capacity for its antibody production - a rapidly growing market in
the UK.

AbD (Antibodies Direct) Serotec is the research antibody division of Germany-based MorphoSys that focuses on supplying antibodies and antibody services for R&D purposes. Acquired by MorphoSys last year, AbD Serotec combines the products of Serotec, Biogenesis, Oxford Biotechnology, and Antibodies by Design. "Since the UK represents one of the top three markets for our research antibody segment operating under the AbD Serotec brand, a strong presence in this region will remain a key element of our future strategy,"​ said Dr Simon Moroney, chief executive officer of MorphoSys. AbD Serotec, which was previously located in four separated buildings, will be now centralised in one 2,200 square meter facility located in Kidlington, near Oxford. The company announced plans to consolidate its UK operations at a single site in Oxford last April 2006 following encouraging quarterly financial results. "The operation is now complete and the company looks forward to growing its research antibody business from this new base in the UK,"​ the firm said. "The Oxford region provides us with a strong infrastructure and a high concentration of excellent academic researchers and innovative biotechnology companies - both potential customers for our technology,"​ said Moroney. The UK is the second market behind the US for antibodies used as research tools, Mario Brkulj, MorphoSys' spokesperson, told "The UK represents quite a large chunk of our clients, at least a fifth, but we are also active in the US and in the rest of Europe."​ Therefore, Brkulj said that with these new headquarters in place, the company hopes to get more customers as it is a new base for future growth. According to estimates, the pharma industry spends $1bn (€780m) per year on antibodies as research tools. "It is a small fraction of the $14bn spent each year on therapeutic antibodies but it's still substantial and growing rapidly,"​ said Brkulj. AbD Serotec produces custom monoclonal antibodies not for therapeutic applications but as research tools using MorphoSys' proprietary Human Combinatorial Antibody Library (HuCAL) technology. "HuCAL is a new approach to antibodies manufacturing. In opposition to currently used methods which involve animals as research tools, we create the antibodies from scratch. It's a new tool in the market,"​ said Brkulj. "It is a combination of​ in vitro and traditional production of antibodies with the main advantage of being faster as you don't rely on animals." The technology enables the production of antibodies in eight weeks, indeed significantly faster that the currently used methods. Monoclonal (mAb) antibodies are used extensively in biopharma research and are important tools used by many researchers. Producing mAb requires immunising an animal, usually a mouse, but there has been considerable research on in vitro​ methods which could be less expensive, faster, and produce antibodies in higher concentration than has been the case in the past. In addition, MorphoSys's HuCal technology also allows direct selection of antibodies which are epitope specific, or react with a single member of a highly conserved antigen group.

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